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A weekend of all things Skarloey and the Railway Series at the Talyllyn Railway!

Over the weekend of 23 and 24 July 2022, the Talyllyn Railway was once again transformed into a Railway Series enthusiast’s paradise. This was our second Awdry Extravaganza, and wow, did we pull out all the stops for this event! People travelled from all over the world to visit us, see the brilliant Awdry Exhibition, ride on special trains and have a go at driving a couple of Sodor engines. Our visiting engines included ‘Sir Handel’, ‘Peter Sam’, ‘Duncan’, ‘Ivo Hugh’, ‘Rusty’ and ‘Fred’. Our special guest, TV presenter and historian Tim Dunn, read from the Skarloey books, performed an excellent and enthusiastic Awdry lecture (twice!) and hosted the live broadcasts on our YouTube channel.

The Rev. Wilbert Awdry was an Anglican priest and railway enthusiast who became an enthusiastic member and volunteer guard on the Talyllyn Railway in 1952, just a year after we had become the first preserved railway to be owned and operated as a heritage railway. Awdry’s experiences on the Talyllyn inspired him to create a fictitious narrow gauge railway, the Skarloey Railway, which became the subject of an additional series of  books within his ‘railway’ series. It was lovely to see members of the Awdry family at our event.

A man talking into a microphone by a steam loco.
Luke Ryan, Tim Dunn and Peter Sam at Wharf Station. Photo: Nathan Spence.

Highlights of the Awdry Extravaganza 2

The railway was very busy with loads of visitors enjoying themselves despite a bit of rain! As well as the usual service trains, we ran special trains for enthusiasts. Several trains were double-headed.

A station full of engines and people.
Duncan, Rusty and Ivo Hugh at Wharf during the Awdry Extravaganza 2. Photo Karen Willans.
A double headed train at a station in the rain.
Duncan, Sir Handel and Peter Sam at Wharf in the rain. Photo Karen Willans.

The Awdry Exhibition gave visitors a chance to take an up-close look at artefacts usually stored behind lock and key in the Awdry Study. Wilbert Awdry’s own model railway “Ffarquhar Branch” was displayed and in full operation in the Exhibition room, with his original models of Thomas, Percy, Toby, Daisy and more, working the carefully planned timetable penned by Awdry himself. Also on display were artefacts from the Official Thomas Archives, including original illustrations from the Railway Series books and more. The display was jointly organised by the Talyllyn Railway and Mattel.

Two model steam locos - one red, one green.
Talyllyn and Skarloey models at the Awdry Exhibition. Photo: Nathan Spence.

The Picnic: A Mid-Sodor Experience, hauled by the Mid-Sodor Railway’s No.4 “Stuart”, transported the picnicers back to Sodor in the 1930s. The special train headed up the valley, and passengers were treated to a proper afternoon tea at Abergynolwyn.

“The Railways of Sodor”, last heard in 1983, was performed by Tim Dunn in front of a full house at the Neuadd Pendre on Saturday night and Sunday morning. This was an absolute must-see for fans of the Railway Series and Sodor’s history – with more reveals and “new” information that has been lost to time since 1983. This lecture covered all of the railways on Sodor, from the most obscure to the most famous.

The Skarloey Photo Charter took place on Sunday. It was a fantastic trip out to take its passengers to some very recognisable and iconic locations from the Railway Series books. Professional Photographer Phil Tugwell was on hand to assist with getting that perfect shot. Awdry Expert and Sodor Historian Luke Ryan was the Guard, who stopped the train in the perfect spots to recreate those iconic illustrations.

A train in a rural station with lots of people taking photos.
The Skarloey Photo Charter at Brynglas. Photo: Nathan Spence.

Throughout Saturday and Sunday, Duncan and Rusty were at Tywyn Wharf for the exclusive opportunity to have a drive between Wharf and Pendre.

Rusty the diesel engine.
Rusty on Pendre shuttle duty, Awdry Extravaganza. Photo: Nathan Spence.

You can watch the ‘live’ broadcasts on the Talyllyn Railway’s YouTube channel:

Huge thanks to organizer Luke Ryan, Tim Dunn, the Awdry family, ‘The Rats’ who ran the Exhibition, and everyone else who came along to help in any way, sorting special trains out, the crews and the catering staff and volunteers. Looking forward to Awdry Extravaganza 3!

A rainbow over a small green diesel locomotive.
‘Fred’ at Wharf, Awdry Extravaganza 2, Photo: Nathan Spence.